My job as city wildlife correspondent for the Gloucester Clam is rewarding, but it’s sometimes a tough endeavor. The stories can be emotionally difficult to write, but it’s so necessary to expose them to our readership.
It’s a common, but depressing sight: they congregate along fences and alleyways, tending to appear mostly at night. They are abandoned with no second thought by the humans that purchased them years ago. They have been replaced, many times because adults, or even children, didn’t like them anymore. Their age betrayed them. Sometimes, they are left outside the doors of their former owners with a sign reading “Free!”
Even worse, many are unceremoniously dumped in empty fields, behind dumpsters, or at construction sites, because it’s easier for the former owners than dealing with them humanely.
They tend to be seen in pairs, as if teaming up helps them survive in the harsh outdoors without any shelter. On occasion, residents report seeing four or five, of different sizes and ages, all together.
The problems they face on the streets are staggering. Exposure to the elements leaves them ragged, soaked, and stinking. They can be separated from their mates. Eventually, most are tagged, picked up by the city and destroyed.
The phenomenon is not new. This issue has always been ingrained in city culture across the globe. But here, in Gloucester, it is a troubling sign of the times.
I took to the streets to find out why this was happening, since they cannot speak for themselves. I felt it was my duty as a journalist to make their stories heard.
Downtown, near the train station, several were amassed in front of an overgrown side yard, along with weatherbeaten bookcases and particle board computer desks that had been set out for trash some weeks before. Morning commuters passed by hurriedly with earbuds in and phones out, ignoring them, like they did not exist. In fact, when I stopped to speak with several people, they admitted they were so common they just blended into the scenery.
(STAY TUNED NEXT WEEK FOR PART 2 OF OUR SERIES)